'The Voice' Recap: Let the Battles Begin

UPDATED: Guest mentors Hillary Scott, Joel Madden, Sheryl Crow and Pharrell help with the competitive duets, and one coach uses both steals during the first night of battles.

Now that The Voice is done with the blind auditions, it’s time for the battle rounds, where coaches pair off their contestants and challenge them to out-sing the other in a sudden-death duet. Each coach invites a fellow singer to serve as guest mentor, and also has the option to “steal” whatever performer is cast off by another team.

It’s the first time the newbie coaches sent their singers to the boxing ring -- while Usher debuted his effective exercises for evoking more stage presence from his contestants, Shakira struggled in moments of indecision, saying, “Oh god, I shouldn’t have taken this job.” Thankfully, Blake Shelton offered his coping mechanism: “Just drink, like I do!”

STORY: 'The Voice' Recap: Blind Auditions Wrap Up

See who came out victorious during Monday night’s battles:

Team Adam’s Amber Carrington vs. Sasha Allen: “Try”
Throughout rehearsals of Pink’s song, Adam Levine’s country competitor had a wavering confidence, while his Broadway alum habitually over-sang the ballad -- two problems conquered with the help of guest mentor Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum. Together, their big voices held up the harmonies and made the first decision of the night difficult for the Maroon 5 frontman. “Pairing you with Amber, initially I thought you were gonna wipe the floor with her,” he told Sasha, just before choosing Amber.

Usher and Shakira wasted no time pressing their buttons to steal Sasha away (it’d be such a loss to watch the powerhouse leave the show so early in the season). Going with her gut feeling -- and per her adorable little daughter’s shouted suggestion from the audience -- Sasha chooses Shakira.

Team Shakira’s Garrett Gardner vs. J’Sun: “How You Like Me Now”
Shakira put the raspy rocker, who also auditioned last year, against the R&B singer, who currently works the front desk at a salon. Though also advised by Good Charlotte lead Joel Madden, who is also a coach on The Voice’s Australian version, both brought plenty of stage presence while performing The Heavy’s hit (which was a game-changing moment Tony Lucca during season two). “I almost felt like you guys were having a sermon up there -- oh, you want to preach?” joked Usher. Shakira opted for the gritty Garrett, sending J’Sun home.

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Team Blake’s Holly Tucker vs. Michelle Raitzin: “Blown Away”
Before the battle of the Carrie Underwood song, Shelton’s marching-band belter started out too sweet, while the prodigy performer whose family members are musicians struggled with pitch. Sheryl Crow offered her tips, but both voices started to sound interchangeable, until Michelle lost breath control and fell into a falsetto. Ignoring the flub, Shelton attributed his choice to the country genre, and that’s Holly.

Team Usher’s Jess Kellner vs. Taylor Beckham: “You Know I’m No Good”
Usher called on Pharrell to help him tackle the battle rounds and debut his interactive coaching style: standing across the room and waiting for the singers to be compelling enough to pull him toward them (none of these Texas could do it though). And onstage, their contrasting timbres brought Usher’s decision down to a matter of taste. He opted to further invest in Jess’ rich, silky tone over Taylor’s thinner, angelic sound -- which was a suggestion from Blake, who ended up stealing Taylor for his own team!

Team Blake’s Christian Porter vs. The Swon Brothers: “Won’t Back Down”
It’s always intimidating to enter a battle against a duo, and during rehearsals, the bar musician struggled to hit the high notes that would outdo the energetic Swon Brothers’ tight harmonies. But the performance truly belonged to the siblings, who also sang a Tom Petty song for their blind audition -- and Shelton knew it when he chose them to move forward beyond the battles. “I know that I won’t be background music forever, thanks to you,” Christian told Shelton, gracefully.

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Team Adam’s Judith Hill vs. Karina Iglesias: “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”
Levine foolishly paired Michael Jackson’s former duet partner against a music teacher who’s a master of trills. The final duet of the night featured two huge voices that overflowed with stage presence and escalated to an unforgettable ending and a standing ovation. Shakira called it “deliciously contradictory to witness so much female power onstage, singing ‘This is a man’s world,’” and Shelton clarified that “Adam’s stupid. ... Battles shouldn’t sound this good.” Levine chose Judith, and Shakira rushed to steal Karina, making her the first coach to ever use both her steals on the first night of battle.

What did you think of the first night of the battle rounds? Were the right singers sent home tonight? Sound off in the comments section below.